Photo Awards Highlight Environment, Nature, Pollution, and Resilience

Competition showcases professional finalists and shortlisted images.

locust invasion

Luis Tato / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

There's a man in the midst of a destructive locust invasion and a predatory big cat standing over its dinner. There's a beautiful photo of underwater organisms and people navigating the polluted, swirling waters of New Delhi.

These are some of the finalists and shortlisted images in the Professional competition in the 2021 Sony World Photography Awards.

More than 330,000 images from 220 territories were submitted to the 2021 awards. Of those, more than 145,000 were entered into the Professional competition from which the winner of Photographer of the Year 2021 will be selected.

Above, is "Locust Invasion in East Africa" from Luis Tato of Spain. It's a finalist in the Wildlife & Nature category.

Here's an excerpt from Tato's description of his photo series:

Desert locusts are the most destructive migratory pests in the world. Thriving in moist conditions in semi-arid to arid environments, billions of locusts have been feeding throughout East Africa, devouring everything in their path, and posing a huge threat to the food supply and livelihoods of millions of people ... Covid-19 restrictions have significantly slowed efforts to fight the infestation, as crossing borders has become more difficult, creating delays and disrupting the supply chains of pesticides and products needed to prevent these pests from wiping out vegetation across the region and exposing millions of people to high levels of food insecurity.

Below are some of the finalists and shortlisted images from categories in the Professional competition and what the photographers had to say about their photos. The winners will be announced on April 15.


big cat with prey

Graeme Purdy / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Graeme Purdy, Northern Ireland; Wildlife & Nature, Finalist

"This series of images was taken using wide-angle lenses and wireless triggers. With these iconic wild animals, being in close proximity is too dangerous, so you need to be inventive and innovative. This unique perspective is complemented by an aerial image of a hippo pod, as well as underwater images inches away from wild crocodiles. I have aimed for a unique perspective showing the raw beauty and power of the wild; hopefully, through more empathy with nature, we will learn to preserve it. All animals are wild and free."

"Net-Zero Transition"

Net Zero Transition

Simone Tramonte / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Simone Tramonte, Italy; Environment, Finalist

"The coronavirus pandemic has led to the most severe economic downturn the world has seen in recent years. However, this crisis also presented countries with an unprecedented opportunity to shift towards sustainable living. Iceland is isolated and challenged by a harsh climate and following the financial crisis in 2008 has successfully transformed its economy through the use of renewable energy. In a few decades, the country moved away from fossil fuels to producing 100% of its electricity from renewable sources. This transition nurtured an ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship that grew profitable businesses aiming to make minimal impact on the environment. Thus Iceland has become a global leader in technologies that foster clean energy and emission reduction. This small nation presents many ways in which the global climate crisis can be tackled and is leading the transition to a net-zero sustainable future."

"A Fox"

fox on a volcano

Fyodor Savintsev / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Fyodor Savintsev, Russian Federation; Landscape, Finalist

"I took these photographs during my first trip to the volcanoes of Kamchatka in eastern Russia. I visited in the autumn, when there is no snow covering the volcanoes, and was struck by how the yellowing leaves looked against the black ash. My visit lasted around two weeks and I photographed in all different weather conditions and times of the day. The Kamchatka Peninsula is completely different from anything else I’ve seen. I was completely absorbed by its beauty and wanted to portray the volcanic belt as a living organism. I plan to continue the series this year."

"A City Under Dust Clouds"

a city under dust clouds

Mohammad Madadi / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Mohammad Madadi, Iran; Environment, Finalist

"Ahvaz has been consistently ranked as one of the world's worst cities for air pollution according to the World Health Organization, topping the list on numerous occasions in the past decade. Industrial sources, chief among them the refineries and other components of the vast petrochemical industry in Khuzestan Province, as well as massive dust storms, are the main contributors to air pollution. The poor air quality has a significant impact on the lives of the residents of Ahvaz. Each year, thousands seek medical treatment for respiratory conditions. The air pollution has also increased immigration out of the city, limited investments and tourism, damaged infrastructure, and added to the already high electricity and water consumption of the city."

"Ourense, a Burned Land"

firefighters battling blaze

Brais Lorenzo Couto / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Brais Lorenzo Couto, Spain; Portfolio, Finalist

"Taken in and around his hometown of Ourense in the region of Galicia, photojournalist Brais Couto presents a series of poignant and dramatic scenes exploring local events and issues ranging from the effects of the pandemic to forest fires and carnival season."

"Living Kaleidoscope"

ocean microorganisms

Angel Fitor / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Angel Fitor, Spain; Wildlife & Nature, Finalist

"I have imagined the ocean as a superorganism, with the world's seas as its organs, and its creatures as the tissues that interconnect everything. Sinking further down on to it, there is nothing… but sea drops.’ This figurative concept opens Sea Drops, a photo essay aimed to explore the effervescence of life inside drops of sea water. By using lab micropipettes, and a self-designed micro studio setup, the project captures the beauty and manners of live plankton, which are in the range of 200 to 1,500 microns, inside specially lit drops of water. It tells the story of one of Earth's most pivotal biological communities with an innovative perspective, falling somewhere between art and science. The images reveal the astonishing diversity of creatures otherwise invisible to the naked eye, as well as their amazing behaviour, some of which is likely never to have been documented before. It may even be new to science. From the enthralling beauty of sea sapphires, to the mesmerisingly mysterious dances of annelid worms, the project opens a drop-shaped window to a new world. All specimens were carefully handled under a biologist's expertise, and released alive and unharmed back into the sea."

"Alpine Barns"

Alpine barn

Karin Nuetzi-Weisz / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Karin Nuetzi-Weisz, Austria; Architecture & Design, Shortlist

"These picturesque wooden houses, made of heavy square beams, were built as simple block structures. They have a large entrance on the mountain-facing side and two tiny windows, which seem to stare at passers-by, on the side facing the valley. Finally, there is a mouth-like door. Worn by rough weather, heavy snow and the gleaming sun, the wood is burnt to a dark brown. Alpine barns, referred to as Stadel, Schüpfen or Maiensäss, are a common sight in Austria, Germany and Switzerland. They were used as shelter for animals in the summer and for storing farming equipment and hay in the winter. Today, with grass for the cows being conserved in plastic wrapping, alpine barns are used less and less, and are slowly starting to disintegrate."

"Consumer goods circulation"

consumer goods, China

Wentao Li, China / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Wentao Li, China; Environment, Shortlist

"The world's population is expected to increase by 2 billion in the next 30 years, according to a United Nations report. We would need the equivalent of almost three planets to provide the natural resources required to sustain our lifestyles in their current state. The impact of consumerism on our environment is reflected in every aspect of our daily lives. This series explores the amazing capabilities humans have for production, circulation, and consumption."

"Artifact #309: Tree of Half-Truths"

tree leaning in the snow

Marvin Grey, Philippines, Shortlist, Professional, Landscape, 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Marvin Grey, Philippines; Landscape, Shortlist

"Hokkaido is often depicted as the land of ice and snow, and is commonly photographed in black & white. Heading to the region, I expected to do the same. As I travelled across its harsh, snowy landscape, I came across fields as white as a blank canvas. There, I forced myself to see beyond the obvious: beyond just black & white, beyond the chills and blizzards, and beyond my imagination. I saw it as a perfect opportunity to explore my ideas of a calm but harsh landscape; of what it could look like amidst the blizzard and the cold. I exposed the images for five minutes or more to maintain a sense of minimalism and to reduce any distracting elements such as ripples and movement in the sky."

"I Wanna Be Messi"

boy on crutches kicking soccer ball

Antonio Aragon Renuncio / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Antonio Aragon Renuncio, Spain; Sport, Shortlist

"Football is not a privilege, it is a right. According to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, it is a universal language for millions of people around the world, regardless of their nationality, language or religion. In Togo, at the Don Orione Centre, children with disabilities are given specialised assistance to improve their quality of life. They all are Messi. Football brings peace for their souls and freedom for their minds. It's more than just a game."

"Saving Chimps in the Congo"

saving chimps in the Congo

Brent Stirton / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Brent Stirton, South Africa; Wildlife & Nature, Shortlist

"Rescuing and saving baby chimps is difficult. When they are taken by poachers, they are subject to tremendous trauma and abuse, and cannot access the nutrition they need to survive. The care required for their survival is similar to that needed by human babies – an often-exhausting 24/7 process. Many of the caregivers at this sanctuary are victims of the conflict; a number have been raped, displaced or wounded. They see the chimps as healing them as much as they are healing the chimps. The bushmeat trade in the Congo Basin is the largest in the world. Chimpanzees are often shot for the trade and their babies taken for possible sale. This essay attempts to show some of what is required to save those few chimps that are rescued, an estimated one in 10. We see this through the lens of rescue personnel, bushmeat markets, vets at work and Lwiro, a rescue sanctuary for chimps in a part of the Democratic Republic of Congo where conflict is a regular feature and wildlife is the last priority unless it can be eaten or sold."

"Gas Chamber Delhi"

pollution boat delhi

Alessandro Gandolfi / 2021 Sony World Photography Awards

Alessandro Gandolfi, Italy; Environment, Shortlist

"New Delhi is one of the world’s most polluted cities. In winter especially, smoke and smog create a toxic mantle from which it is impossible to escape. In particularly poor conditions, breathing Delhi’s air could be equivalent to smoking up to 20 cigarettes a day. How are Delhi’s residents trying to combat this emergency? With masks (but these have to be of the requisite quality), with purifiers (very expensive) and with plants that emit oxygen also at night (but these aren’t enough). A bar has even opened where customers can breathe pure oxygen for 15 minutes at a cost of 400 rupees (around €5). The problem is mainly a question of socio-economic class: the poor, who live more or less on the streets and don’t use masks, are the most vulnerable."